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Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As much as they have shaped American history, these words in the Declaration of Independence will continue to shape its future. While the revolutionary war they sparked may be long over, the battles for liberation they inspired are not, as the last two centuries have witnessed one disenfranchised group after another build on their foundation to win equal protection under the law. By exposing the hypocrisy that one group’s rights were regarded as “self-evident” while others were not acknowledged at all, abolitionists, suffragists, and civil rights activists have all invoked the Declaration of Independence and the eternal principles it espouses in their quest to realize its promises and help us to form a more perfect union.
And yet billions of beings still do not have the rights we demand and accept as “unalienable” for ourselves. There are still billions of beings who — though they may differ from us in some ways — share the things which, as the Declaration proclaims, are the things that matter most: the desire to live, to be free, and to be happy. In these significant ways, humans and non-human animals are identical.
Aren’t they entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Of course, they are.
To life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for all our fellow (human and non-human) Americans.
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